U.S. Under-20 Men's Team

Strong Defensive Display Leads U.S. Past Mexico

Erik Palmer-Brown scored on a 29th-mintute header and the United States under-20 men's national team defeated Mexico, 1-0, in a crucial World Cup qualifying match. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 28, 2017
2:00 PM

THE UNITED STATES UNDER-20 TEAM pulled off a surprising and hard-fought 1-0 win over Mexico on Monday night in an important World Cup qualifier. Tab Ramos's squad is now on the verge of booking a ticket to this summer's U-20 World Cup South Korea.

The young Yanks came out in a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation and welcomed back Tyler Adams to the starting lineup after the New York Red Bulls product was injured in the first half of the opening loss to Panama. The U.S. was strong in the possession to start and maintained possession for long stretches.

Despite playing well, the U.S. struggled with its passing in the final third. The one breakthrough came in the 29th minute when a Brooks Lennon corner kick found team captain Erik Palmer-Brown who headed home the decisive goal.

In the second half, the big story was how well the U.S. defense played both in the backline and in the midfield. Overall, Mexico was rarely dangerous and U.S. goalkeeper Jonthan Klinsmann (who had his father and former national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann in the stands watching) was rarely tested.

With the win, the United States sits atop Group D with three points. The top two teams of the three-team group—consisting of the United States, Mexico, and El Salvador—will advance to the World Cup in South Korea. The United States faces El Salvador Friday but could clinch a spot in South Korea as soon as Wednesday if El Salvador can either win or draw against Mexico. If that does not happen, the U.S can clinch if it defeats or draws El Salvador on Friday.

Strong Defensive Showing

Central defenders Justen Glad and Tommy Redding, along with defensive/holding midfielders Erik Palmer-Brown and Tyler Adams, led the U.S. to victory. These four players cut off Mexico’s passing channels and really kept Mexico from creating dangerous chances.

Palmer-Brown was the deserved man of the match and not only because he scored the goal. The Sporting Kansas City product does not normally play in a defensive midfield role but he has emerged as a force there with the U-20s. He won numerous challenges and broke up many of Mexico’s attacks. Adams, one of the youngest players on the team, also showed well, demonstrating a strong two-way game throughout the contest.

The central defense partnership of Redding and Glad is working well. Glad, in particular, is the most professionally seasoned player on this team and it shows. He has been calm under pressure and while he had a careless mistake against St. Kitts & Nevis on Friday, he delivered a focused and complete performance against El Tri. 

Final passing still a weakness

Not everything was great with the team, however. The final passing left a lot to be desired and the U.S. should have scored more than one goal. The American attackers had several dangerous counter-attacks that completely fell apart.

Luca de la Torre was a mixed bag. He got past his defender into dangerous positions many times but each time his cross or attempted delivery let him down. Coy Craft had a breakaway late in the second half but couldn’t even get off a shot or a pass—instead the keeper simply took the ball away from him.

Jeremy Ebobbise has struggled mightily this tournament despite being the U.S.' leading scorer the entire cycle.

The Yanks' are likely to qualify for South Korea but the team's inability to create dangerous chances from the run of play could make for a very short tournament. Yes, there are many players who can help from Europe—including Nick Taitague, Joshua Perez, Weston McKennie, and even Christian Pulisic—but the players in Costa Rica are capable of more.

With young players it is all about confidence and now after defeating Mexico, perhaps it will be more at ease in the games ahead. That could allow the team to play at its best.  

Fossey’s engine was valuable

Right back Marlon Fossey is still pretty raw and he can make some mistakes but his positives far outweigh his negatives. Like Frankie Hedjuk he has a great engine and speed to burn—which can cover up others' flaws. He’s a good fit for this team.

The Fulham product is extremely athletic and he does not seem to tire over the course of 90 minutes. His crossing is not bad but if that area of his game improves, he could be a valuable weapon into the World Cup.

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